A World without Political Leaders?
The French political philosopher Pierre Manent has a view of politics that my readers are likely to reject, and rightly so. He has written a great deal about the French classical liberals, especially Tocqueville, but his heart lies more in the study of the classics. In his books, such as Metamorphoses of the City, he offers careful readings of Aristotle, Cicero, and many others. Few can match his interpretative depth. But there is a flaw in his method, and the flaw is not that his readings have been influenced by Leo Strauss, though Strauss may make the same mistake as the one I claim that he makes. Rather, it is that he assumes without argument that the ancient texts, as he interprets them, contain truths that we must without question accept.
The problem is evident in an essay of his that has attracted a good deal of attention, “The Tragedy of the Republic: The Decay of Political Culture in the West,” which appeared in English translation in the May 2017 issue of First Things. In this essay, Manent criticizes people in America and Europe today. The problem is that we don’t want to be commanded. “It has been too long since we had the rare benefit of being governed by a truly ambitious statesman.”
Instead, we hold a fallacious view.
The conviction has taken hold that our regime would be more republican if it ignored political rule still more. Political leaders are to serve our interests rather than commend our collective actions. The reigning social philosophy p
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